Monday 2 August 2021

Essential Snobbery 101: Writing letters you hate to write

It has always mattered

I remember once asking to go on an assertiveness course, those courses exist for a reason, my manager scoffed, he said, “Akin, anyone but you needs an assertiveness course.” Whilst I seemed to doubt myself, it appeared there was no doubt that I was an effective communicator.

In my engineering class, many of my classmates did not pay heed to the need to study English which was a necessary elective. Obviously, we had to run the gauntlet of English lecturers who came to show off their loquacious vocabulary, communicating nothing but providing the entertainment of malapropism and meaningless sesquipedalianism of words strung together without grammatical structure or purpose.

Put it all in

My view was, regardless of what profession you were in, it was essential that you could convey your ideas in your chosen language of expression with clarity to persuade and to convince. Now, when to comes to written communication, I like to think I am better exercised to get my point across, the intent, the context, the tone, the appeal to their humanity, the veiled insult politely delivered as a slow-working poison that causes little offence whilst eliciting praise, maybe an English putdown can find a showing too.

Concision is not my strongest point and brevity is probably only needed for telegrams, clarity in prose is what matters more to me that by the time the reader is done, I am both comprehended and understood with responses appropriate to my requirements.

That it might tend to flourish or the flowery is a temptation I have too often yielded to, yet as a copy editor and proof-reader of other material, I would be more conservative, active, and direct.

Then a grubby email

I guess I hate writing emails that have to do with contractual negotiations, they can be emotional and easily be grubby when professional persuasion is required. In such cases, it must be in the view of a sensible seamstress, like a good skirt, long enough to cover the detail, yet, short enough to keep the interest and close the matter.

Once a client wrote to demand payment on the premise that I had been overpaid, by the time I put together the whole chain of evidence that suggested otherwise, what I received was a curt thank you in response and nothing more. Too recently, I noticed an error in my remuneration, not too significant, but on a matter of principle we had an agreement that appeared to be irregularly and unilaterally recast as something else.

Now, I say

At first, I thought it was an error at the payment processing company, their prompt and useful response suggested it was further up the chain. Grudgingly, I made the case for respecting gentleman agreements and signed contracts that had no indication of the variation of terms then closed with the deployment of the polite 3rd person singular. “As such, one is owed moneys due.”

The purposeful switch from the apparently casual and familiar to the stuffily formal was for maximum effect. If as a person well known to me, you need to be addressed with titles and formality, you can be sure we are on the business end of issues that need to be addressed with alacrity, importance, and seriousness.

What mattered was my intervention was effective and what I have requested will be granted, the slight on their part might suggest the need for an apology, not grovelling, just the acceptance of an administrative error on their part that would be made right is enough. Effective communication matters always and if you are not that good at it, get the training to represent and express yourself better than anyone can.

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